Polygamy? Yes or No?

[I served for several decades on the ACLU Church/State Advisory committee and so this one has had me pondering. On that committee we were constantly trying to balance off against each other free exercise versus no establishment. As the polygamists are arguing, about as many countries do as do not tolerate polygamy. And certainly much of the ‘serial monogamy’ (trading in mates for the latest model as practiced by the great host of our nationally prominent figures), as well as the pattern of forming families without marriage, as I gather, is happening in much of Europe, would stand on the side of the polygamists. The only sticking point would be forced or induced sex with minors. Apparently no more than five such cases were found in the Texas group and this may have been a late practice permitted by its primary guru. So it would look as though the bulk of the 400+ children being separated from their parents are having their basic rights violated.

Needless to say there are still problems with this practice such as holding spouses accountable for support of each other and their children, dividing out benefits such as social security. I don’t see medical care or Medicaid as an issue because there are other religious groups and individuals who use such routinely.

One big problem would be the fact that apparently the children and practitioners are taught to lie to officials and other outsiders. Also one wonders whether the rights of those trapped in the system are being violated? We separated native American children from their parents back when to benefit them and the Australians have now regretted that they did this with their native inhabitants. So an issue becomes what sorts of abuses and deprivations are being imposed upon children by the polygamists? There is no clear picture here and most likely things will have to be sorted out through the fog on an individual basis. I would not want to be a Texas official undertaking this task. Getting hard data seems almost impossible here.

I will add that during my two ACLU decades I saw just about every conceivable kind of abuse being committed by religious groups — many of them financial and sexual. I became ever more skeptical about the phenomena of religions in the modern world. There are some good people and good moral values still to be found. But they are mixed in with what seem to be some pretty deadly evils as well.

What thoughts do you have on this subject? Ed Kent]

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Court Says Texas Illegally Seized Sect’s Children
By RALPH BLUMENTHAL
The ruling said that the state had failed to show immediate
danger of abuse.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/23/us/23raid.html?th&emc=th

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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